Monday, May 31, 2010

Fields of Flowers

Although I've mostly been planting vegetables, there is room in my mind for flowers at the moment as well. There's usually room for at least two things at once in my little brain.

Last week we picked bags of lilacs.

Why so many? Because the Russians think vodka is a cure for anything, and this time, it's an arthur-itis cure involving soaking lilac petals in vodka for a few months. I'm feeling a bit old lately, so we picked some for our Russian friend and enough for a batch of our own cure. Apparently you soak it for three months in a bright spot (like a window ledge), then strain out the petals and use the lilac-infused vodka as a rub on your aching joints. It's a pity that the lilac scent does not remain in the lotion. "Vodka cures and kills anything", she told me.

We've had a visitor on and off for the last two weeks who is allergic to many scents, so I've missed some of the lilac season, unfortunately. But she's gone now and I'm going to refill my vases.

Laura has been busy playing with the settings on our camera. I generally keep it on "auto" still, but she's been fooling around with manual, macro and vivid settings. The rainy/snowy/sleety weather created great lighting for some outdoor shots.

And this field of flowers was delivered to our house last week, right when I needed some warmth.

It represents many hours of ballet lessons, swimming lessons, tv viewing and waiting for kids at events and parties. But it also represents friendship. Sheila taught me how to crochet this year. We sat together in front of my little electric fireplace, talking about everything and learning to doube-crochet and make granny squares. I've made three hats, many wristwarmers and two purses, but I haven't mastered a star shape yet and this would have taken me years to finish.

There will never be enough bread coming out of my kitchen to thank you enough!

Friday, May 28, 2010


Beth is in a computer club at school where they "learn" about cool websites, practice typing, and make PowerPoint presentations. This week she came home with

I can't think of a practical use for it, but it's fun to create these word images for whatever you like. I may be using it on occasion here. It's a fun way to kill some time

These are Beth's images. I notice that she's blocked out all negative things about sisters. I might have added a few different words to make it more realistic, but her mind is picking up on the beautiful aspects. Good for her!

And this is why I haven't been blogging this week. I've managed to read quite a few blogs, but writing one takes more mental energy than reading does.
And if we get beyond our last frost, I'll start working on the flowers.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Stuff that goes on 'round here

This year I got a new toy for Mother's Day.

You could say that it is a useful kitchen appliance, and my sister-in-law says that we'll get our money's worth out of it over the years, but that's a heckofalot of pasta I say. At about $2 per meal for bought pasta, I have to make 35 meals just to make the money back if I don't count the cost of ingredients. The wheat I grind is really cheap and healthy and the eggs are not quite free, so maybe it will pay for itself.

But that's not why I wanted it. I wanted to play.

It's like playing with playdough and even Alice can do it herself.

We made this first batch exactly as the recipe was given (3 cups of white flour, 5 eggs), but yesterday I made whole wheat spinach lasagna and spagetti using frozen kale and it worked great. Before adding tomatoes, onions, peppers or carrots to the sauce, we ate about 1 cup of kale in only the noodles. Before wilting, that's a whole lot of veggies.
Fun, fun, fun!

But life hasn't all been fun this week. This is a picture of our front yard last year in June.

It's very underwhelming and it took some time to find a picture to compare to what it looks like today.

See, isn't that better? No? Well, it will be. I removed two sad bushes and created a whole lot of veggie-growing space. However, that root ball is huge. I worked so hard out there cutting down the big bush and then working at the root with an axe that I wonder if the increased salt in the soil is going to be a problem. There's still a lot of root left, but an hour is about all the swinging I can do with that axe.
I've got more garden to prepare and seed too, but I can't seem to plan without seeing the whole picture of space. I think I might not get everything in this weekend as I'd like to.
I've toyed with the idea of getting a squash to climb over the remains of the stump, but then I'd just be putting off the root removal until next year. And I'd rather have the plants climb up than sprawl. There will be a lot of missing privacy on my little patio until trellises of some sort are erected. May always seems like such a rush to get everything done.
Besides the big root ball and stump, here is all that remains of the bush.

There weren't many blooms on the bush this year, prompting the removal. The kids might want to take note: If you don't produce around here, out you go!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cleansers and Homemade Toiletries

I've been on a slow progression towards sustainability and eco-friendliness, but I wouldn't consider myself a freak of any kind. Yet.

I can still go to a permaculture event and say things like "I'll bet it will be full of those kind of people" in a judgemental way. Like I'm expecting couscous-eating, natural haircoloured, granola-eating, yoghurt-making, composting, off-the-grid weird people. And then I'm shocked to realize that I may have become one of those people! I was thrilled to find a room full of those people and fit in just like I belonged there, asking questions about homemade cheese, where to find a cow share and how to use grey water.

Anyway, I think you start using cloth bags, and progress to trying to use more glass and less plastic, steering away from food grown in Chile and China and growing your own, and things sort of steamroll from there.

These are the things I've been making a lot of use of in my house this year and how to make them if you care to try. I don't claim they are the best recipes, or that they are my own recipes, or the ones you'll love, but they work for me right now and I try to improve on them from time to time. Much of it is new to me too.

Homemade Deodorant

Why are we unwilling to cook in aluminum, but we'll spread it under our arms daily? Try to find a non-aluminum deodorant and you're kind of stuck with Tom's of Maine. It's fine, but you can do it yourself in about five minutes. I did it this morning. You'll still sweat, but I'd argue that sweat is a natural thing that serves a function. But it's really icky to smell like you sweat. This will help that.

1/3 cup baking powder
1/3 cup corn starch
About two capfuls of oil (I use olive because I have it in the house, but I
want to try coconut one day)

Mix it all together, kind of kneading the dry mix with the back of a spoon until it's evenly mixed. Screw your old deoderant stick all the way down and pack your new deoderant in. Good to go! I do find that the first two days or so it's a bit crumbly, but it hardens with age.


There are things in toothpaste that started to bother me, mostly the Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). Why would you want to put that in your mouth? I know you don't swallow it, but you swish it out into the water system where it isn't removed and you drink it in your coffee or tap water tomorrow. I haven't successfully gotten it out of my life, but I'm getting closer. Here is some of the hokus pocus behind why I stopped using toothpaste. Although this tastes really gross, it feels great and was an easy change to make.

1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
A few drops of mint extract (it doesn't help much though)
Enough water to make a paste that you like

I mix it in a tiny tupperware and keep it in the bathroom, dipping my wet toothbrush into it. Keep your tongue out of the way! I haven't actually tried to get the girls to use this, but it might be a good thing for Alice, who hates mint and will one day have to graduate from the bubblegum kids toothpaste. You don't need the mint extract at all, or you could swap it out to something citrusy maybe.


Again, the SLS is in all of them and it's sole purpose here is to create bubbles. Who said we wanted carcinogens in our soaps, or that we even needed bubbles in the first place? Here's what I do.

Put 2 tbsp baking soda in a mason jar or pump bottle. Shake it up with a bit of water. Sprinkle some in your hair in the shower (more on your scalp rather than your hair). Rub that in and let it sit for a bit. Rinse it out. Then spray with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. Rinse out.

It took two weeks or so for my hair to stop looking greasy. The theory is that shampoos strip your skin and hair of natural oils and then your body works hard to replace it. That makes you wash more frequently and your body keeps working to keep the oil levels up. Baking soda doesn't strip your skin of oils, and your body has to adjust to this change. It doesn't have to work so hard and you won't have to shower so often (unless you do stinky manual labour, but most of us don't actually get that dirty in our daily lives).

I like this change, and it means that I can reuse my grey water and put it directly on my garden. Again, if we put things on our bodies that we wouldn't put even our plants, does that really make sense?

Laundry Detergeant (makes 10 litres, or I use two 4 litre milk jugs and add a bit of water after I've used a bit first to make room in the jug)

I'm not totally sold on this one but I've been using it for months now. I'd say our socks are looking not crisply white, but hanging them outside in the sun now instead of in the basement should help. I'm so glad that spring is here!

1/2 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda this time!)
1/2 cup Borax
1 grated bar of Ivory soap (is that really free of icky chemicals?
I'm not sure)

Melt the Ivory in 1 1/2 litres of water on the stove. All the washing soda and Borax and mix until totally dissolved. Stir until thickened and remove from heat. Pour this into to two milk jugs and fill with hot water from the tap. Shake it up to mix. Use 1/4 cup per load of laundry, or a couple of glugs if you don't want to measure.

I find it thickens as it sits, so I shake it up before using again and I occasionally water it down a bit.


Baking soda and vinegar (not together unless you're making a volcano to entertain the kids!) work for most cleaning in the bathroom and kitchen.


None of this is new and none of this is hard. I'm a lazy environmentalist. :-) Mom used some of this in the '70s when the world went through the same recession and oil/gas crisis we're seeing now. Your motivation may be to save money or to save the earth or to stop running to the store and supporting Walmart, but simplifying what we do helps in all of these regards.

Join me in my freaky adventure through life!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Still Here

It's just that time of year when there is so much to do. And on top of it all, we had a nasty computer virus or malware or trojan or something that wouldn't let us open any applications except a porn and viagra sites on the internet. Lovely.

Anyway, it's now fixed.
We saw plenty of this along the highway this weekend.

I don't know what it is, but with that kind of inspiration, who needs viagra?

I'm just sayin'.

So.... We just had an awesome weekend with family in the sunny Okanagan valley, where spring has definitely settled in. The flowers were all blooming and the sun was shining. There was love,

and lots of laughter,

and tears,

and bonding of young and old alike,

and food,

and a chocolate fountain (you can dress 'em up, but don't let them near a chocolate fountain or they are bound to lick the chocolate off their dresses rather than waste the drips),

and there were definitely cute little voices in the house.

The computer is all fixed now and we're back on schedule at home. I may be behind the schedule, but at least I've seen the schedule.
This weekend is the plant exchange at the community league, so I know I have some work to do or I will have nothing to donate.
And I'd better do laundry or we'll all have nothing to wear and no one wants to see that. I'd be posting pictureless posts, that's for sure.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Daily Mail

Dear Darvonda,

Please remove your bedding plants and baskets from every aisle at Cosco! When I'm in a rush to pick up my block of butter, it's unexpected to see hanging baskets there, blocking my every step. And the aisles are not marked with appropriate one-way postings. That would be helpful because there is only room for one cart per side, and very annoying for it to be blocked by a label-reading, bi-focal needing senior.

Yours truly,
The plant-lover but butter-needing-rushed shopper


Dear God,

Please melt the snow and show us a little of the soul-warming sunshine that we would like to see at this time of the year.

As an added bonus, that would help Darvonda to remove their plants from the Costco aisle and into the garden centre where they belong. And frankly, they look better in the sunshine than under the flourescent lights.



Dear shoppers,

Please adjust your expectations of an Edmonton spring. Snow happens every year in May and yet you expect to enjoy the earlier spring shared by our BC neighbours and our southern US neighbours. Why do you think you will get this? Do you think your good behaviour this year will change God's mind about the gardening zones? That this year He'll make us Zone 6 and your Mother will be able to enjoy her early patio planters on Mother's Day without fear of frost?

May in Edmonton is cold and unpredictable, but God did give us a gardening zone system to help us out. We are in a zone that quite clearly says don't plant tender annuals before the last weekend in May. Gardening Centres are doing their best to accommodate your demands for an earlier spring, but now they are stuck with stopped shipments and blocking indoor aisles of supermarkets. Just because you are ready for spring, and the garden centre is ready for spring, God is not ready for a frost-free spring until a bit later.

Stop being shocked by this and shop appropriately!

Yours truly,